Guest Post – Becoming a Caring Global Citizen: A Global Travel Scholar’s Push to Help End World Hunger

Below is a guest post from one of our Global Travel Scholars, Matthew McDonald. Through the program, Matthew received a scholarship to travel to Botswana in the Summer of 2014. While in Botswana, Matthew lived with rural host families in a village south of the capital, as well as in northern Botswana, where he ate traditional food, practiced the native language, and generally learned about the culture of Botswana through immersion and participation. In the blog post below, Matthew illustrates how his experiences in the Global Travel Scholarship Program expanded his world view and inspired him to start an effort to bring local attention to the global issue of hunger.

Last summer, I had the incredible opportunity to travel abroad and study the wildlife, ecology, and culture of Botswana, Africa thanks to the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh’s Global Travel Scholarship Program. My experiences abroad, as well as knowing the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh’s mission to spread global awareness, made me eager to make a difference in my own community. I thought to myself, “How can I help the people around me become more globally aware?” Then, it hit me. Each year my school’s chapter of the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization, H.G. Parkinson FFA, which I was President of, holds an open house for community members and students at my school. During this open house, we showcase our FFA chapter and educate others about agriculture.

Tweet 2Typically, members present about agriculture in our area and in America at large. This year however, I initiated a theme that discussed agriculture from all around the globe, including how people in certain areas of our world are faced with malnourishment and what organizations are doing to help prevent this. Each group of members chose a different country and created a presentation about the agriculture found there, while the senior officers of our chapter, including myself, presented about organizations that are seeking to create a food-secure world. Some of these organizations included World Vision, Project Heifer, and our local food banks.

I was honored to present about Elanco’s Enough Movement. Elanco, a global animal health company, created a report called the “Enough Report” which outlines what it will take to feed our growing population. Within the next thirty-five years, the world’s population is expected to increase by nearly two billion people, making the total a whopping nine billion people. That said, we must find a way to not only feed the people of today, but also the people of tomorrow. Elanco is doing just that! They Tweet 1have already outlined three solutions to creating a food-secure tomorrow: innovation, choice, and trade. Elanco says that by enabling innovation, allowing consumer choice, and reducing the politics of trade we can create a world where nobody has to go to bed hungry. I know what you are probably thinking — “This is great, but how in the world am I going to play a part in creating sustainable agriculture or reducing international tariffs on trade?” Well, fortunately for you, there is a way to get involved. Perhaps the simplest way we all can make a difference is by being advocates. How do we do this — how do we help provide organizations with necessary resources, educate people with the facts of world hunger, and spread the word? One way we can do this is on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. As part of my presentation, I had elementary students at my school get their picture taken behind a cardboard cutout that said, “We’ve had enough!” and posted them on Twitter using #feedthe9. As a result, we were spreading awareness and even gained the attention of Elanco themselves. It was that easy!

You see, you do not have to be a farmer, scientist, or a politician to play a part in creating a hunger-free world. You simply have to be an advocate. Everyday consumers like you and I have more than enough capability to earn this title and I hope that we all will. Let’s not stop here! Let’s continue the movement to create a more globally aware and hunger-free world! To learn more about the Elanco’s, “Enough Movement,” and how you can get involve, visit:

How will you join the movement and play your part in this life-saving mission?

Tweets from H.G. Parkinson FFA, Feb 2015, Twitter


International Internship and Study Aboard Opportunities

2013 Global Travel Scholar Josh Patton atop Machu Picchu in Peru.

2013 Global Travel Scholar Josh Patton atop Machu Picchu in Peru.

There is a lot to be learned outside of the classroom! Whether you are thinking about college applications or possible career plans, a summer internship, study, or travel opportunity is worth considering, and with summer just around the corner many high school, undergraduate, and graduate students are doing just that.

To help start the search process for opportunities available this summer and throughout theschool year, we’ve compiled a list of some great internships, study abroad, and travel experiences in international affairs across a wide range of organizations. Use the information below as a beginning guide on your search, but be sure to do some research on your own as well! To help you out, we have listed some additional resources for more information.

Internship Opportunities             

Amnesty International – Internship Opportunities: Amnesty International is a human rights organization that provides unpaid summer, fall, and spring internships to rising college juniors (and above) in New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, San Francisco, and Boston.

Arms Control Association Internships: The Arms Control Association and Arms Control Todayoffer research and journalism internships in Washington, D.C. This internship program, offered in the spring, summer, and fall, is best suited for undergraduate students.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Internships: APEC is an international affairs and economic organization that provides unpaid internships to graduate-level students who are nationals or permanent residents of APEC member economies. In some cases a financialstipend may be available. The Secretariat seeks candidates from a variety of academic disciplines, specifically those who have a strong interest in the work of international organizations and, in particular, international affairs and international economics.

The Carter Center Internship Program: Semester-long internships are open to undergraduate and graduate students and recent graduates in areas such as health, peace, and operations. These internships are unpaid and may take place in cities across the nation and abroad. Internship opportunities are offered year round.

Center for Strategic and International Studies – Internships: CSIS offers full and part-time internships in the fall, spring, and summer for undergraduates, advanced students, and recent graduates who are interested in gaining practical experience in public policy.

Central Intelligence Agency – Student Opportunities: The CIA has competitive internship opportunities available to undergraduate and graduate students in a range of fields, including analytical; business, IT, and security; clandestine service; language; and science, engineering and technology. The student opportunities page also includes information on scholarship and co-op programs, as well as ongoing opportunities for students of all ages. Due to the extensive application and background check required, interested applicants should apply 12 months prior to their desired start date. Applications for the Summer 2015 internship program are due March 31, 2014.

Council on Foreign Relations Internships: CFR offers volunteer internship opportunities for college students, graduate students, and recent graduates focusing on international relations and who are pursuing a career in foreign policy or a related field. Interns are recruited year-round on a semester basis to volunteer in both the New York and Washington, DC offices, and all internships are filled on a rolling basis.

Doctors Without Borders – Paid Internship Program: A very competitive program, Doctors Without Borders offers internships in many departments, including HIV/AIDs, Human Resources, Marketing, Medical Editing, Planned Giving, Public Events, Press, and Web. Internships take place in New York City. The deadline to apply for a summer internship is April 11, 2014.

European Union – Washington Delegation Internships: Open to college/university students and recent graduates, internships with the Washington Delegation are unpaid and preference is given to applicants who are available full-time. Internships are offered during the fall semester, spring semester, and summer.

Human Rights Watch Internships: Internships are available to undergraduate and graduate-level students, both within the U.S. and abroad.

International Monetary Fund Internships: The IMF offers approximately 50 paid summer (June – October) internships each year to highly qualified PhD students.

Korea Economic Institute Internships: Applicants to KEI should be graduate students (or exceptional undergraduate students) with a background in political science and/or economics as well as an interest in Asia-Pacific issues, especially Korea. Internships are offered for the fall, spring,and summer.

NATO Internships: The application window for a NATO internship is from March-April for the following year. Internships last 6 months, beginning in either September or March, and are based in Brussels, Belgium. Application requirements include an online application form, CV, and letter of motivation.

United Nations Internships: The UN Programme on Youth provides a list of internships available with the United Nations. Please visit each link for specific details and applicant criteria.

United States Commercial Service Internships: The U.S. Commercial service offers student volunteer internships at U.S. Field Offices, Headquarters, and International Field Offices. This page provides more information about applying to the different locations.

United States Department of State – Student Programs: This page offers information for high school, college, and graduate/post-graduate opportunities within the State Department. Please visit each opportunity for details and applicant criteria.

United States Office of Personnel Management – Student Jobs ( This website is the portal to all job and internship applications for the federal government for students and recent graduates. Internships can be found by searching the site for “internship.” This page also offers information on the Pathways Program, the Presidential Management Fellows Program, summer jobs, and volunteer experiences.

United States Senate or House of Representatives Internships: Many offices of government officials in the House of Representatives and United States Senate offer internships for high school students, undergraduates, and graduate students. A variety of opportunities can be found at the link provided. You are also encouraged to visit the professional website of a representative, senator, or committee for more detailed information.

USAID Internships: The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) offers paid and volunteer-based internships, both domestically and abroad, for college and graduate students.

White House Internships: Applicants for a White House internship must be U.S. citizens who will be at least 18 years old on the first day of the internship, and must be enrolled in an academic program. A completed application for this competitive program includes two essay questions, two letters of recommendation, and a resume.

World Affairs Councils: Like the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, many World Affairs Councils across the country offer internships at their organization. This link goes to the World Affairs Councils of America list of member Councils.

World Bank Internships: The World Bank offers paid internships in the summer (June-September) and winter (December-March), primarily in Washington, D.C. Applicants are required to be graduate or PhD students who have ideally completed one or more years of graduate-level education at the time of the internship.Globe study

Summer Travel and International Learning Opportunities

American Field Service (AFS)-International Programs: AFS is dedicated to building a more peaceful world through international student exchange.  They offer many diverse study abroad programs for summer, semester, or academic-year terms to destinations around the globe for both high school and college students.  They also maintain a detailed database of merit and need-based study abroad scholarships that will help fund your once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Amizade Global Service-Learning: This Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization offers experiences for individuals and groups to travel abroad to participate in service-learning opportunities. There are also accredited study-abroad opportunities, offered in partnership with West Virginia University.

Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE): CIEE provides many international living options for students, including study, volunteer, gap-year and work exchanges in 15 countries.  They also fund a limited number of full and partial scholarships for both high school and college study abroad programs.


Global Citizen Year: During this year-long total immersion program, offered to recent high school graduates, students will develop critical skills, master new tools, and learn from recognized experts all while living abroad and being fully immersed in a new culture. Programs are offered in Brazil, Ecuador, and Senegal, and last from the summer following high school graduation to the following April.

Global Scholar: An intensive two-week academic enrichment program that offers rising high school juniors and seniors the chance to sharpen their understanding of international affairs in a university setting. Global Scholar Prep is held at American University in Washington, D.C.

Kosciuszko Foundation Summer Study Abroad Programs: A variety of study abroad programs are offered by the Kosciuszko Foundation for study at the Catholic University of Lublin and Jagiellonian University of Cracow in Poland. Programs range in length and include courses in the Polish language, history, and culture with sightseeing trips on weekends. The deadline to apply is May 15, 2014.

National Geographic – Student Expeditions: Students completing 9th through 12th grades are eligible to participate in National Geographic Student Expeditions. There are four types of trips offered: expeditions, field workshops, photo workshops, and community service programs.

Summer at Georgetown: Georgetown University’s Summer Programs for High School Students include a range of activities, such as Institutes on International Relations and National Security/Counter-Intelligence; Fundamentals of Business: Leadership in a Global Economy; and summer courses on a range of international topics. The deadline to apply is April 15, 2014.

Summer Seminar on Global Issues: New in 2014, the Summer Seminar on Global Issues is a two-week, non-residential program offered by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh in partnership with the Global Studies Center and the University Center for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Open to rising high school juniors and seniors, the Summer Seminar will expose students to a range of interdisciplinary global issues, and will include language study, presentations from regional experts, simulation and scenario activities, among others. The deadline to apply is April 30, 2014.

World Learning: A partner of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh’s Global Travel Scholarship Program, World Learning offers travel learning opportunities for high school and undergraduate students. The Experiment in International Living offers 3-5 week programs for high school students in 30 different countries, while SIT Study Abroad offers college students more than 70 semester, academic year, and summer programs around the world.

Youth for Understanding (YFU): YFU is a non-profit educational organization that offers opportunities for young people around the world to spend a summer, a semester, or a year with a host family in one of over 50 countries.  They also offer guidelines and tips for raising the money necessary to study abroad and encourage checking in with a local YFU organization about available scholarships.


Global Travelers and Culture Shock

2013 Global Travel Scholar Josh Patton atop Machu Picchu in Peru.

2013 Global Travel Scholar, Josh Patton, atop Machu Picchu in Peru.

2014 Global Travel Scholars

All of us here at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh are pleased to announce we will be sending five students abroad as part of our Global Travel Scholarship program. This scholarship program, managed in partnership with the Experiment in International Living, provides an opportunity for local high school juniors to travel to foreign countries. Focus is placed on those who would ordinarily never have this chance.  Whether it is trekking to Machu Picchu in Peru or learning how to draw anime in Japan, for the past decade Global Travel Scholars have been leaving behind the comforts of home to experience firsthand the joys and challenges of living abroad.

This year’s selection process was especially rigorous, as each participating school was only able to nominate one candidate.  Starting with 35 nominated students, five scholars were selected to participate in the program. Through the generous financial support of regional foundations, corporations, and individuals, the Global Travel Scholars will spend three to five weeks this summer living in Brazil, Spain, Botswana, Tanzania, or Japan.

Let’s meet the 2014 Global Travel Scholars:

Edgar Bahena, a junior at Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, has a strong interest in science and music which drew him to choose Brazil, whose culture is ripe with musical diversity and new scientific avenues.  He is eager to discover what opportunities he will find that align with his growing interests.

James Burke, Jr, a junior at The Kiski School, will be traveling to Spain to immerse himself in Spanish culture while practicing the language in an intensive program.  As Vice President of the Culture Pot, a school club that embraces cultural diversity, he is looking forward to having the opportunity to go abroad to experience a new culture firsthand.  He sees this as an opportunity to grow as a leader in his community.

Tessa Houser, an already active volunteer in her community and a junior at Quaker Valley High School, is ready to embark on her next community service project in Tanzania. Tessa is delighted to have the chance to learn and experience new activities and perspectives to enhance her already active life.  She sees this as a way to open doors for her future.

Matthew McDonald, a junior at Fort Cherry Senior High School, will be spending five weeks in the rural and urban areas of Botswana.  A very active member of his community, he is overjoyed to be able to enhance his understanding of the world to become a stronger, more insightful leader in the future.

Raheem Perry, a junior at Imani Christian Academy, is an avid artist and cartoon creator who will be joining fellow enthusiasts this summer in Japan.  He is very excited to improve his self-taught skills in the hope of achieving his dream of one day becoming an entrepreneur in publishing.

Please join us in congratulating these students on such a tremendous accomplishment!


Adjusting to Culture Shock

Before leaving for their respective countries all of the scholars participate in various pre-departure workshops to prepare them for their time abroad. A theme discussed throughout these workshops is culture shock. These feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed and frustrated in a new country are common among many of us who travel internationally. Whether you are traveling for an extended period of time like our Global Travel Scholars, or planning a brief two-week vacation with the family, chances are you’ll experience some form of culture shock.

culture shock

Research shows that culture shock comes in four stages and can be experienced both when traveling abroad and upon your return home. These stages include:

  1. Honeymoon Stage: Everything is new and exciting during the first few days or weeks.
  2. Frustration Stage: People experience difficulty sleeping, sadness, homesickness, overeating, unexplained crying, exhaustion, or a desire to withdraw.
  3. Adjustment Stage: Travelers become familiar and comfortable with their surroundings, culture, people, food, and host language.  They will be better able to handle situations they once found frustrating. 
  4. Acceptance Stage: Travelers will be able to compare the good and bad of the host country to the good and bad of their own country.  They will begin to feel less like foreigners and their host country will begin to feel more like a second home.

How you manage culture shock can greatly influence your entire travel experience. If you find yourself in a situation where the culture shock is difficult to manage, think of different ways to connect with the area and the people around you. Here are some tips:

  • Take some time to explore the area, try new foods, or take part in a cultural activity.  This is also a great time to make new friends.
  • Reach out to your fellow travel mates, discuss any frustrations, or spend a few moments by yourself to write down what you are experiencing.  Ask questions to clarify any cultural confusion that may be frustrating you.
  • Take time to make friends with the locals. Start to go outside of your comfort zone or explore and learn new cultural traditions and languages.
  • Take the time to strengthen bonds with the people you have become close with, take part in as many new experiences as possible, and remember to engage and have fun!

Parents can help too. For those who have children traveling abroad this summer, see this resource on helping your child adjust to culture shock.

These are easy tips that can make all the difference in your international experiences.

Congratulations again to our Global Travel Scholars, and best of luck to everyone traveling abroad this summer!

Welcome Home to the 2013 Global Travel Scholars! (Part 2)

Earlier this week, we introduced you to six of our 12 Global Travel Scholars with a compilation of excerpts from their travel essays about their summer immersion trips. In case you missed it, you can catch up on the adventures throughout Asia, South and Central America by clicking here.

Part two features six additional scholars and their experiences in Africa and Europe. Continue reading to learn more about these trips, and the impact they made on the scholars’ lives.

Amanda Grace – Botswana

Botswana Part 2 242“Our safari was the last taste of Botswana that we got and it was certainly worth it. It took a total of six hours to drive from Kasane into the Chobe National Park in an open air jeep. We bounced around for hours wondering if we were ever going to get off the sand roads and to our camp. That night while we slept in our tents, I woke up to the sight of an elephant eating leaves off of the tree branch above my tent. It was amazing to be so close to the animals outside of a zoo.”

Cassie Lignelli – Morocco

1001119_10151901446572275_64692330_n“I know that because I was placed in situations I was not sure how to handle or felt uncomfortable confronting that I grew immeasurably as a person, and that I have a flexibility to absorb other cultures and ways of life with my heart and mind wide open.”

Kevin McDowell – Tanzania

P1000914 “The trip as a whole was life changing. Not only did I grow as a person, but my mind was opened to a new way of living. I have now been inspired to not only travel more as I age, but also to do study abroad trips in college.”

Nathan Lawyer – South Africa

543814_585168311533543_10698921_n“The Anthonys, my host family, had just one son who was my age, his name was Virgyll. At first it was really weird between Virgyll and me. It felt like I was that annoying little brother that your parents make you take everywhere, but by the end of our eleven day home stay, Virgyll and I were like real brothers. We did everything together and it was fun. One day Virgyll and his friends taught some of us Americans how to play rugby and we taught them how to play football.”

Jordan Tyler – Italy

clip_image002“I have learned about cultures through history books, but being fully immersed into another culture has allowed me to appreciate both the differences and similarities we all have. I will take this experience with me in my life as I continue to progress to higher education and future endeavors. I am now more open-minded than ever before, and I will continue to share my experiences with others so that they too can learn about new cultures.”

Raina Bradley – Spain

IMG_1819“Once everyone started getting to know one another the trip really took off and friendships started to happen. I will never forget the first day in Madrid when we went to “Tapas 44” and got our first taste of Spanish culture and food. One of the girls unknowingly ordered a plate of cheese and we couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves and one another because it’s impossible to learn those things out of a Spanish text book in class.”

Welcome Home to the 2013 Global Travel Scholars! (Part 1)

The Global Travel Scholarship program, a partnership between the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, The Experiment in International Living, and its parent organization World Learning, has sent more than 100 young high school students from southwestern Pennsylvania to participate in travel experiences around the world. The program is designed to provide local high school juniors, especially those from underserved districts, with the opportunity to travel abroad for a summer. Trips range from three to five weeks, and may include a community service project, language study, and outdoor adventure among others.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the program, with twelve high school juniors participating in immersion trips across five continents. Each student stayed with a host family during part of their trip, while also studying topics ranging from biodiversity to conflict resolution.

All of the scholars have returned from their trips, and will join us for a Welcome Home Session this week to share their experiences with friends, family, teachers, and mentors. We look forward to reuniting with the scholars and learning more about these exciting adventures. For those unable to attend the reception, we invite you to read the compilation of excerpts from each scholar’s essay, on their experience and how it has influenced their life. Part one is provided below, highlighting immersion trips in Asia, South and Central America. Stay tuned for part two of this series later this week featuring trips in Africa and Europe.

 Armon Coleman – Japan

Japan 5“Each day I looked forward to the new possibility to partake in the Japanese culture.  I was able to observe amazing sights, beautiful sculptured gardens, incredible museums, sacred shrines and temples.  As a student, I attended the Sapporo Manga/Anime Gakuin to learn techniques of Anime and Magna. As an honored guest, I visited the local schools to observe the curriculum and clubs of the Japanese students.” 

Justin Hardin – South Korea

539567_696333323725412_1935789004_n “The day we visited the DMZ, we first stopped at the memorial side of it. There was a field filled with sculptures and windmills that represent peace. We also walked through a tunnel that North Korea created in order to launch an attack on South Korea after the DMZ was built. After we saw a quick Korean War video and took many more pictures, we finally went to the Neutral zone overlook. Once I was there looking at the neutral zone and the edge of North Korea, I began to seriously comprehend the reality of the situation of North and South Korea, and for the first time I actually began finding answers to the questions we were all asked about peace.”

Taizhae Howell – China

taizhae great wall of china“We went to visit the Great Wall of China. Upon arrival I didn’t know what to expect. All I could picture were the images inside of textbooks and in documentaries. We got to the tourist area and there was no wall in sight. I was so confused; little did I know we had some climbing to do. After about two hours of climbing over mountains we finally made it to the wall. I was overwhelmed by so many emotions; I had a paralyzed smile on my face. It is the most amazing thing I have seen with my own eyes; pictures do not do it justice.” 

Chelsea Geruschat – Argentina

arg-3“In today’s society the motto is ‘time is money.’  So if we aren’t working or running around like crazy people, we aren’t doing anything productive according to some predetermined social standards.  In Argentina, whether it was talking to local students in Buenos Aires, bonding with your host family in Salta, doing service work in Chicoana or riding horses from the Finca Santa Anita these standards didn’t matter anymore.”   

Josh Patton – Peru

image_2“I can recall the first time I took the “micro.” Basically, it is a utility van that has been gutted, with the insides replaced with seats that have been bolted to the floor (it seats around twelve comfortably.) A man hangs out of the door on the side, shouting the names of neighborhoods that it services. It costs one Perúvian Nuevo sol, the equivalent of about $0.30, and it will take you almost anywhere you want to go. My host sister waved it down, and it pulled up beside us. I took one glance inside, and my heart dropped into my stomach. There were about twenty people crammed inside, all mashed together like sardines. I am extremely claustrophobic. The man in the door shouted, “¡Sube!” which is the Spanish equivalent of “Hop on!” I had no other choice but to pack myself in with the rest of the people. I was not in any danger, just extremely uncomfortable and anxious. However, by the end of the trip, small spaces no longer bothered me. I had overcome my claustrophobia.”

Katelyn Ripple – Costa Rica

DSCF1260“My trip to Costa Rica taught me many things that have changed the way I want to live. From living on a sustainable agricultural farm, hiking through the rainforest, gaining another family, watching sea turtles give birth, zip lining, scuba diving, and just enjoying the Costa Rican shoreline, I could not begin to describe all of the wonderful things I experienced. Even though the rainforest and the homestay were my favorite parts of the trip, every day in Costa Rica contains a beautiful memory I want to share with the world.”

Reflections from a Global Travel Scholar


It is hard to believe that it was one year ago that I was preparing for my trip to Costa Rica.  I can remember the excitement and anticipation that I had as the day of departure got closer and closer.  I was going shopping for items I thought I may need and spending time with family and friends that I wouldn’t be able to see for a month.  All of the preparations were exciting and it was fun to spend time with my mom as she helped me pack.  I remember sitting in my room the night before I left with my younger sister, Heather.  As excited as I was to go, it was going to be really hard to leave my family, especially my sister, because I was going to miss them so much.  We stayed up all night just talking and crying a little but we knew that it would be a good experience for both of us.  As I got on the plane from Pittsburgh and began the first part of my journey, it finally hit me that I was going to be spending an entire month in Costa Rica with people I had never met before – not to mention all of the new adventures that lie ahead of me.  It was terrifying, but in a good way.  I was scared, but my excitement held me together and allowed me to step onto the plane.

I am so glad that I was given the opportunity from the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh to travel to Costa Rica because it was honestly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and it has had such an important impact on my life.  I would not trade it for anything.  I met some of the most amazing people during my trip and made so many great friends.  There is no way for me to sum up my trip in a few words because so much happened and I did not recognize the changes and effects it had on me until I got off the plane in Pittsburgh and adjusted to life in the United States once again.  I was told many times that I would come home a different person and that I would see the world in a new way when I returned, but I did not believe it.  I knew what I wanted to be in the future.  I knew who I was and I did not think the experience would have that large of an impact on me.  My mentor told me that the transition back to the United States would be as difficult as the transition into Costa Rica.  I didn’t believe this either.  I thought how could I have difficulty adjusting to life back at home?  But everything that people told me before I left held true.

The people that I met in Costa Rica, my group leader, Max, my group members, and the Costa Ricans all left lasting impressions on my life.  My group of ten from all over the United States and one member from Chile al became such close friends.  It was as if we had known each other for years.  I still talk to most of them via Facebook and texting.  In the one month that we were together we all formed a really close bond that will remain for a long time even though we are all so far apart.  My group leader Max was amazing.  He was so knowledgeable about his country and was a great tour guide.  But this was his job.  The part that set him apart from any tour guide was the fact that he connected with each of us on a personal level.  He knew that we missed home at times and knew how each of us needed help.  He was easy to talk to and really knew how to talk to us.  Max was definitely one of the reasons I enjoyed my trip as much as I did and I still communicate with him on occasions.

When I got home, like my mentor said, I had a difficult time adjusting.  I missed the friends that I had become so close with and the country that I had lived in and become a part of for the past month.  Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to get home and see my family and friends that I had missed so much but I wanted to take them with me back to Costa Rica and all of my new friends.  It was strange not waking up in Costa Rica to the sounds of the rain forest or the ocean.  It was weird being home and back in the chaos and busy schedules in the United States.  Eventually I adjusted back to my normal schedule of soccer and summer assignments and that is when I really noticed that changes that had occurred within me.  I was not a completely new person.  I still wanted to study biomedical engineering in college and become a medical researcher.  I still liked to play soccer and spend time with my friends and family.  It appeared like the trip hadn’t changed me too much.

But once the shock of being home wore off I recognized subtle changes in myself.  I was more confident in myself.  I was not afraid to be who I was.  I was not as worried about what others thought of me.  I wasn’t afraid to talk to people and try new things.  I was more adventurous and outgoing.  These were all skills that I learned in Costa Rica.  I faced my fears in Costa Rica.  I did things I never imagined I would do and it made me grow as a person.  I noticed other subtle changes, like the attention I paid to how my actions affected the environment and how I thought of things on a more global level instead of just my community or area.  Almost one year later, I still think of my experiences in Costa Rica, the friends I made, and the lessons I learned.  It is something that I will never forget because it truly is an experience that has forever changed my life.  I am so grateful for the chance the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh has given me because of the impact it really has made on my life even one year later.

By Heidi Schmidt, 2012 Global Travel Scholar

Global Travel Scholars: Search begins for the 10th cohort

Next week, the World Affairs Council is gearing up to begin the 10th annual Global Travel Scholarship program by closing the nomination phase. Supported by generous regional individuals, foundations, and corporations, over 90 students have gone through the transformative experience provided by the Experiment in International Living.


The Council launched its Global Travel Scholarship Program in 2004.  Since its inception, 91 area students have been given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of a foreign country, an experience that many of these students might not have otherwise had.  The Scholarships awarded by the Council cover the full cost of The Experiment’s programs.  The Council also pays for each student to obtain a passport.


The Council focuses on recruiting Scholars from city schools, suburban communities hit hard by the economic crisis and the loss of the steel industry, and rural areas. The Council works closely with teachers and after-school programs in these districts, soliciting nominations of students whom the teachers and mentors believe are mature enough to handle the cross-cultural nature of the Program.  Those students who advance to the final round are interviewed by the Council’s Selection Committee.


Each Scholar spends three to five weeks in their designated country.  Depending on the program and country selected, the Scholars have an opportunity to participate in community service projects, language training, regional exploration, outdoor adventure, or the Arts.  All of the Scholars live with a local family for part of their time abroad.


This past summer 20 Pittsburgh-area juniors were selected and they traveled to 14 different countries. Their experiences varied from England to Botswana from Peru to Thailand. Upon their return to Pittsburgh, they have become fundamentally changed. As Heaven Brown, a student from Cornell High School, mentioned in her essay, “My experiences during the rest of the trip only added to my self esteem. This journey has only inspired me to venture out into the world even in my own area.”